February 23, 2012 archive

Three Critical Reasons High Schoolers Should Restrict The Privacy Of Their Facebook Pages

Tonight purely by accident I stumbled upon the Facebook page of a student I know at one of our local high schools. I didn't know he was on Facebook but he had commented on a post in my NewsFeed by someone who turns out to be a mutual friend.

Curious to know if it was the person I thought it was, as his Facebook profile picture was not a photo of him, I clicked on the link to his name expecting to see the standard "basic info" you see for everyone and then the privacy message that usually greets you:


Instead, I saw everything...

Walls Wide Open

His Facebook "Wall" was wide open for all to see.  Anyone. I saw all his posts... all his photos... all the comments between him and his various friends. I clicked on the Info link and learned all about where he goes to school (which I knew), his musical tastes, the sports he likes, movies, television shows, games, religious views...

And I got to see all of his friends...

... probably a good half of whom ALSO had wide open walls.

In the course of maybe 10 or 15 minutes of flipping around, I learned a good bit about some of the region's high school age students, saw a whole bunch of photos, read a few conversations that probably weren't meant to be public (or at least to be read by 40+ year-old men sitting at home on their computers)...

...and generally got increasingly concerned about the amount of information these students were perhaps inadvertently disclosing about themselves and their lives.

Now, this is, after all, what Facebook seems to want. They generally default to public sharing, and so if you don't take active steps to protect your privacy, all your content will be shared with the world. And while some people are quite okay with that, I'm personally not.

If I could say anything to these high schoolers or their parents - and to all the others reading this post, it would be that there are three critical reasons why you might want to think about restricting your Facebook privacy a bit more.

1. Security

The most obvious one is the security angle. There are a lot of sickos out there. I've been online for now almost 30 years and I've seen all sorts of seriously warped stuff... information security has always wound up as part of what I've been involved with, and some of what I've had to do has taken me to seriously vile and heinous parts of the Internet.

There are warped people out there. There are thieves and scammers and fraudsters and perverts and others who prey on people online. They've always done this... Facebook just makes it ultra-easy to do. They can start commenting or "liking" your posts and photos. Striking up friendships. Sending you messages. Wanting to meet, etc., etc.

With your wall wide open, you are giving them all the info they need for "social engineering" to know exactly what to say to you. They know the music you like, the TV shows you like, etc. They've seen your photos, so they know what you look like, what you like to wear, etc. It's insanely easy for them to gain your confidence and trust.

You are also giving them your location. You are letting them know where you are, what you are doing. It's a wonderful way that your friends can know where to meet you (and it is. I personally use it that way.)... it's unfortunately also a way for a stalker to find you. And sure, it may not ever happen in your town/city, but why give out all this info when you don't really need to?

You also give away where you are not. Believe it or not, people's homes have been robbed after they were posting publicly about going away from their homes.

Location info... and really all this personal information... is really best shared only with those you trust.

2. Employers Check Facebook

The second reason to restrict your info is because if you are a high school student looking for even a part-time job, guess what that potential employer is going to do?

Yes, they (or at least the smart ones) are going to search for you on Google and Facebook and see what turns up.

In 2012, you're pretty crazy as an employer if you are NOT doing background checks on the Internet. Who needs to call references when you can just go to a search engine and learn more about potential employees than you probably ever wanted to know? (including all the "stupid sh__" they did last weekend?)

It's real. It happens. And stuff lives on in Google's caches far longer than you would ever think.

3. Colleges Check Facebook

In a similar way, college admission officials check Facebook. (Another article claims 80% of colleges use Facebook in recruiting.) Need I say more?

If you are in the process of applying to colleges, you probably don't want admissions officials reading your wall conversation with a friend where you are trashing one potential college and talking about another. Nor do you potentially want them seeing your writing, spelling, photos, etc. (unless, of course, it's awesome and might help you get into a school).

Managing your "online reputation" is something that you have to start thinking about NOW.

How To Close The Walls

To start, the best thing to do is to go into Facebook's "Privacy Settings" that, today, anyway, are found in the drop-down arrow next to your name in the upper right corner of the web version of Facebook:


Facebook unfortunately has a way of changing these settings around from time to time. But if you go down to "Privacy Settings" you'll get the window you see below, where you can make two important changes:

  1. Set your default privacy to "Friends".
  2. Change all past posts to be set to "Friends".


Note that when you click that "Manage Past Post Visibility" you'll see a window pop up that warns you that all posts shared with friends or the public in the past will be restricted. Then you'll get ANOTHER window just confirming that you really, really want to do this and warning you that you can't undo it and will have to manually change it on each post if you want to share those posts publicly again. Finally, you'll be able to change the setting.

You may also want to click "Edit Settings" next to "How You Connect" and restrict who can find your profile, who can send you messages, who can write on your timeline, etc. Here are my settings, which I have changed from whatever Facebook sets as the default settings (probably "Everyone" for all of them):


If you do these three steps,

nothing will really change for you on Facebook!

You'll still be able to interact with your friends. You'll still be able to write on each other's walls. You can still tag each other in photos, send each other messages, etc.

It's just that now when anyone who isn't your friend goes to see your Facebook profile... whether they are other students who aren't your "friend", parents of other students, potential employers, college admission officials... or sick creeps... or just random people out on the Internet... all they will see is this:


All that other personal information stays within the circle of the people you have accepted as "Friends" on Facebook.

And YOU are in control of what employers, college admission officials and everyone else sees.


  1. These privacy settings do not completely remove the chance your info can be publicly disclosed. Your info and photos go out to your Friends' Newsfeeds, and they can then in turn "share" your info out to other people... and somewhere along the way may be someone whose settings are more public. However, you are greatly restricting the potential of that with these settings.
  2. There's a separate conversation that could be had about how you could selectively post certain items publicly to create a public profile that would actually be positive for employers/colleges to see.  For instance, notes about awards you've won, volunteer activities you've accomplished, great photos you've taken or articles you've written, etc.  But again, you are in control of that information.

If you found this post interesting or useful, please consider either:

Citrix Launches New Blog Post Series About IPv6 Transition

It was great to see that over on Citrix’s blog, Kapil Digani has started what is promised to be a series of posts about the transition to IPv6. Currently, there are two posts up, the second of which has naturally received a few comments:

As we get closer to World IPv6 Launch, it’s great to see post series like this popping up all across the Internet. It’s great to see the commentary on Citrix’s site and we look forward to seeing more posts in the series.

The Exquisite Beauty of an Ebook as a Living, Breathing Document

It's Alive!
What if a "book" is more than just a fixed collection of text at a given point of time? What if the "story" inside the book evolves and changes over time? What does this mean for the idea of a "book"?

Books have always changed over time, of course. There have always been "second editions", "third editions", etc. There have been different printings by different publishers - or differences between a hard-cover and paperback version. There have been translations... and other various different versions of books.

But those were historically very discrete "BIG DEALS". I mean... whoa... there was enough interest to create a second edition? or a 3rd? or a 4th? Wow!

They involved great amounts of time, effort and perhaps most importantly money to go through the whole production process again to great the new "edition" of the book. It was not an easy process.

Ebooks fundamentally change all of that.

Last night I was working late into the night on an update to my "Migrating Applications to IPv6" book and thought about how bizarrely different ebooks are.

Consider this:

  • I originally wrote the book in May 2011 prior to World IPv6 Day on June 8, 2011. The original book refers to that event as coming up in the future.

  • Last night I updated the book to discuss some of the lessons learned from World IPv6 Day in 2011 and to also talk about the upcoming World IPv6 Launch on June 6, 2012. I expect this update to go out in a week or two.

  • In July (or anytime after June 6), I can then update the book to talk about World IPv6 Launch in the past tense and talk about anything learned out of that experience.

The "book" is no longer fixed to a specific point in time.

Again, sure, this has always been true with creating new "editions" of a book, but this is where ebooks make this so... trivial.

As an author, here is the full extent of my update process:

  1. I update the text of the book on my local computer. Have someone proofread it, check it, etc.

  2. I commit the changes to O'Reilly's Subversion repository for my book. (Yes, O'Reilly is a geeky kind of publisher that lets authors work via SVN repos.)

  3. I send an email to my production editor with bullet points of changes.

  4. Assuming he's fine with the changes, he triggers a process that creates the appropriate ebook files and puts them up on O'Reilly's distribution site, Amazon, etc.

  5. Readers who purchased the book directly from O'Reilly get an email saying that they can download the updated version. I can blog about it, promote it. Anyone who buys the new version will at this point have the updated text.

Boom. That's it!

Simple. Easy. Done.

Now, granted, O'Reilly has done a bunch of "magic" to make that step #4 "just work" from the author's point of view... but it doesn't matter to me. The point is that I can write my updates, commit the changes, ping my editor and... ta da... a new version is out there!

It's that last step that is really the differentiator for ebooks. Notifying the reader that a new version is available.

Because, of course, the precise version of a book or an ebook is fixed to a specific point in time. When you download it to your computer or ereader, you have the version of the ebook as it exists now at this moment in time.

Without a notification/update system, you may never know that there are changes and updates that you can download.

But with such a system, the "book" becomes so much more... it is now a living, breathing document that will change and evolve over time. Perhaps slowly... or not at all if an author doesn't create updates... but then perhaps VERY rapidly under changing circumstances.

The book that you read today may be completely different than that exact same book that you look at again in a month.

It changes the notion of the "permanence" of books... you have the capacity to enter into more of a "relationship" with the book and the author. You have the chance to see it grow and evolve. Or not.

As an author I actually find it incredibly exciting. A chance to keep a book always up-to-date. A chance to evolve the book based on reader feedback. A chance to change the "book". Sure, there is a bit of a responsibility to your readers as you enter into a relationship like this where updates may come to be expected - and some authors will not want to enter into that relationship. They may want to simply throw the book out there and be done with it.

But for those of us who do want to treat the book as a living, breathing document, that is the exquisite beauty of an "ebook" (with an update/notification system).

The "book" is alive.

Image credit: drooo on Flickr

If you found this post interesting or useful, please consider either: